Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Lesbian seeks support for new documentary

Student chronicling effort behind D.C. Women’s Initiative



Lesbian Alternative, Kelsey Brannan, gay news, Washington Blade
Lesbian Alternative, Kelsey Brannan, gay news, Washington Blade

A vintage clipping used in Kelsey Brannan’s in-the-works lesbian documentary. (Image courtesy of Brennan)

A local director is seeking the support of the LGBT community to help her tell a story she’s passionate about.

Georgetown University student Kelsey Brannan and the Washington Blade are hosting a preview of Brannan’s upcoming documentary “Labor of Love” at the Blade offices (1712 14th St., 2nd floor) on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. Following the 10-minute preview will be a Q&A segment with Brannan and subjects of the film.

Complimentary wine will be served and guests are encouraged to network, socialize and discuss what they would like from a new space.

“Labor of Love” follows the D.C. Women’s Initiative, founded this past March, in its mission to establish a physical space to connect lesbians in the community and existing organizations together. Their goal is to open a space in March. The documentary also includes vignettes highlighting the history of former lesbian spaces in D.C., including Sisterspace and Lammas Bookstore.

In the film, former Lammas Bookstore owner Denise Bump reflects on the impact the store had, saying it was part of a movement of women helping other women. She hopes to see something similar in the new center. Bump is head of the D.C. Women’s Initiative and will be available during the event’s Q&A segment.

The evening is largely a fundraising event. Brannan is attempting to reach a goal of $15,000 by Jan. 1. The funds will go to hiring a full-time editor, composer and cinematographer and cover other production costs. She has raised $2,800 through All donations will be canceled if she does not meet the goal by the deadline. While she is confident she will be successful, if she falls short, Brannan said she will explore other outlets of fundraising.

She hopes the event will generate interest in the documentary throughout the lesbian community. In a written statement, Brannan says, “The event is designed to get people more engaged with the project, secure more donors and get feedback from the community about what women want from a new space.”

Brannan estimates that about 40 percent of her filming is complete, thanks to “the generosity of my friends with cameras.” Filming will continue in January and February and the documentary will premiere in late April.

Brannan began developing the film as her master’s thesis project, which she defends in May. When she first arrived in Washington, Brannan searched for a physical space where she and other lesbians could spend time and connect with the community. In a video statement on her film’s website (, she says she discovered a history of such spaces, which no longer exist, compiled by the Rainbow History Project.

“It’s hard to tap into a community when you move to a new place,” Brannan says, commenting on her early days in D.C. “I wanted to look into the past to see why these spaces existed and why they disappeared.”

This personal desire to find a community became the inspiration for her film.

The project has two components. Brannan plans to expand the documentary and show it at festivals, including the Reel Affirmations Xtra series in June. There is also an archive on the film’s site featuring clips, interview segments and personal stories about the importance of having such spaces for women. Brannan plans for the project to be ongoing.

In the film, D.C. Women’s Initiative member June Crenshaw explains how such a space would fill a void in the community.

“The space is not going take the place of all of the organizations and groups that are out there doing a whole host of wonderful things,” she says, “but it’s really going to provide that centralized place for us to find each other.”

Brannan credits her community as a driving force behind the documentary and appreciates the support she has received. “Every woman I interviewed was a huge part of the project,” she says. “Without them, it wouldn’t be possible, and without the D.C. Women’s Initiative space, I wouldn’t have a narrative.”



PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride in the Park

Annual celebration featured vendors, performers



(Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Pride in the Park was held at Druid Hill Park on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Linus Berggren)

Continue Reading


PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center



A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Continue Reading


Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25



Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade